by Kendal Rasnake
SEPTEMBER 26, 2014

1 Thing Missing in Bible Education

Can you guess what's missing in Bible class? 

Teachers?  No.  We have people willing to teach.  Students?  No.  We have students.  Nap time?  No.  I had one instance that proves nap time is not missing.  As I got up to teach, someone in the auditorium literally starting stretching out horizontally on the pew.

So what's missing in Bible class?  Assessment.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let's first mention that what I am writing is based on my experience in adult Bible classes.  It may or may not apply to your congregation or Bible classes.  You be the judge of that.  But my guess is that assessment is missing from most adult Bible classes.  Second, let's set the agenda of this article so we know where we are going.

  1. What is assessment?
  2. Why does it matter in a Bible class?
  3. Final thoughts

1. What is Assessment? – Assessment involves assessing something or judging something to determine whether or not it is meeting up to a standard.  You do it all the time.  You sniff meat to see if it smells bad in order to determine whether to eat it or throw it away.  You squeeze vegetables to see if they have reached the right stage of ripeness before you buy them. 

In the world of education, assessment is supposed to be used to determine whether or not the student has achieved the educational goals of the course. 

If an educational goal of an auto mechanics course was that the student could understand the workings of an internal combustion engine, some type of assessment would need to be devised to measure whether or not the student had reached that educational goal.  The assessment could come in various forms and would ideally be tailored to properly measure knowledge and competency.  A written test might ask questions about the parts of the engine and what they do.  A student might be asked to draw a diagram of the engine, label the parts, and describe the function of each part.  

Assessment is not only for the teacher but also for showing a student where more work or study is needed.  It gives them a picture of their strengths and weaknesses.  It can even teach them in the sense of showing them a correct answer when they thought they already had it but were, in fact, incorrect.

For both the teacher and student, assessment also shows progress, especially if it is compared with an assessment done at the beginning of a class.  For example, a teacher might give the final exam on the first day of class.  The students may get some of it right but will likely have lots of areas for improvement.  If a similar final exam is given at the end of the course a comparison can be made and progress (or regress) measured.

It should be obvious as to why assessment is critical.  Students entering any class should contract with the teacher as to the pursuit of educational goals for the course.  How are the teacher and student going to determine whether or not the educational goals have been reached without assessment?  How is the student going to determine their strengths and weaknesses?  How is progress going to be shown?  Would you hire an employee for an auto mechanic if all they had done in auto mechanic school was listen to lectures but never took any tests or had their repair work assessed by a teacher?

2. Why does it matter in a Bible class? – Assessment is used frequently, although not always properly, in the world of secular education.  Tests are given, projects are completed, papers are written, speeches are delivered, etc.  These go on day in and day out at schools, colleges and universities around the world. 

But in adult Bible classes they are noticeably absent.

In fact they are so absent, and have been for so long, that even the mention of a quiz or test may be likely to draw chuckles and smiles from the crowd.  It has for me.  The idea of papers, projects, or speeches done by the students in an adult Bible class may seem absolutely unheard of, except perhaps for a men's or preacher's training class.  Why is that?

If assessment is critical in secular education, should it not be more critical in Bible education where our souls are at stake?  

We would rarely question the reasonableness of a college professor assigning a test and paper in order to assess our knowledge of world history, but when do we ever see the same tools and assessment used for Old Testament History in a Bible class?  Why are these types of tools used in a preaching school but not used in a local congregation?  Is the preaching school a more serious study and the congregational study deemed less serious or less important?  Why do some congregations look for preacher candidates who have completed training from a preaching school and graduated because the preaching school has assessed them to be knowledgeable and competent, but then don't expect the congregation to be subjected to the same rigors of assessment in their Bible classes?  

We need as high a quality education in our congregational classes as we can.  Leaving out quality assessment is a mistake.  Just because a subject has been taught does not mean it has been learned and applied.  Like the people referenced in Hosea 4:6, aren't our churches being divided and people going away from the truth due to a lack of knowledge?

Assessment is a key element in any education because it determines whether or not the educational goals are being reached.  If we do not assess ourselves, how do we know what we need to learn in the first place?  If we do not assess ourselves, how do we know if we have learned it?  If we do not assess ourselves, how do we know where our strengths and weakness in Bible education lie?  If we do not assess ourselves, we are missing an opportunity to correct incorrect thinking on Bible material.

Does the Bible not teach that we need to assess ourselves?  "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" (2 Corinthians 13:5) If elders are charged with feeding the church (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2), then how do they know the church is growing from that feeding without assessment?  How do the elders know where the strengths and weakness of the congregation lie in regards to their Bible education without assessment?  Would not future problems be avoided if assessment of the congregation was first made and then Bible classes geared toward fulfilling the spiritual needs of the congregation based on that assessment?

3. Final Thoughts - In all fairness, assessment to some degree may be taking place.  Questions might be asked at the end of the lesson to gauge the audience's knowledge of the material.  The teacher might be able to assess the students' understanding by the discussion that takes place.  But I do not feel assessment is used to its maximum potential nor taken seriously.

Educational classes should have goals.  The actions of the classes should be geared toward getting the student to be able to reach those goals.  But assessment is what is needed to see if those goals were ever even met, to inform the teacher and student of where more work needs to be applied, and to correct incorrect thinking.